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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 14:55 GMT
What went wrong for Sunderland?
By Chris Bevan

Mick McCarthy
McCarthy has won only two of 37 games as a Premiership boss

Less than a year after taking Sunderland to the Championship title, Mick McCarthy has been shown the door at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats finished above Wigan and West Ham last season as all three sides won promotion to the Premiership.

But while the Latics and the Hammers have enjoyed successful seasons in the top flight, Sunderland's campaign has been nothing short of disastrous.

They lie 16 points from safety, are still without a home league win and suffered an embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of League One side Brentford.

A fall-out with chairman Bob Murray over the club's transfer policy did not help McCarthy's cause.

But a poor return on the signings he did make - and his terrible record as a Premiership manager - ultimately cost him his job.

BBC Sport looks at the reasons why Sunderland have struggled while Wigan and West Ham have prospered.

THE REBUILDING JOB

McCarthy claimed his hands were tied in the transfer market and the club had prepared for relegation before the season had even began - something Murray vehemently denied.

Sunderland signed 12 players last summer after winning promotion back to the Premiership - including two on loan - for a conservative 4.25m.

But Wigan and West Ham also overhauled their squads in the summer, and without breaking the bank.

Hammers boss Alan Pardew spent 4.8m on nine players before the season began, while Wigan manager Paul Jewell brought in 11 players for 5.95m.

West Ham only loosened the purse strings in the January transfer window when their top flight status was secured, spending 7.25m on Dean Ashton.

At the same time Wigan splashed 2m on Paul Scharner, while McCarthy's only action was to bring in Rory Delap from Southampton and Kevin Smith from Leeds, both on free transfers.

Undoubtedly the Black Cats are still suffering financially from their last spell in the Premiership in 2003, which makes McCarthy's feat in taking them up even more impressive.

But when you examine his recent record in the transfer market, it is easy to understand why, even if there was more money available to strengthen the squad, Murray might have chosen to hold it back.

SCORING PROBLEMS

Jon Stead, Andy Gray, Daryl Murphy and Anthony Le Tallec have all struggled to make an impact in the Premiership, scoring just six goals between them all season - and all four were close-season McCarthy signings.

TOP LEAGUE SCORERS
West Ham: Marlon Harewood (13), Bobby Zamora (6)
Wigan: Henry Camara (8), Jason Roberts (7)
Sunderland: Liam Lawrence (3), Dean Whitehead (3)

Stead (1.8m) has not scored at all and Gray (1.1m) has managed only one.

Stephen Elliott and Marcus Stewart got the goals to win promotion last season, but Elliott has been injured for long spells and the experienced Stewart left for Bristol City in the summer.

That has left midfielders Liam Lawrence and Dean Whitehead to top the club's goalscoring charts with three apiece.

Sunderland have scored more than one goal in a league game on only three occasions this season and have failed to score at all 13 times.

Their tally of 19 goals in 28 games is the second-lowest - behind only Portsmouth - in the Premiership.

In comparison, Marlon Harewood has scored 13 league goals on his own for West Ham, and Wigan have found a potent partnership in Jason Roberts and Henri Camara.

DEFENSIVE FRAILITIES

If things have been bad for Sunderland going forward, they have been even worse at the back.

A tendency to press the self-destruct button has cost them dear on too many occasions, with Danny Collins' mistake against Manchester City on Sunday was typical of their season.

Alan Stubbs was meant to bring Premiership know-how to their backline, but instead returned to Everton after a brief and unhappy spell, leaving Gary Breen to guide a young back-line.

Goalkeeper Kelvin Davis cost 1.25m from Ipswich in the summer but also looked short of Premiership experience, something his predecessors Mart Poom and Thomas Myhre both had in abundance.

West Ham's defence was also a youthful one but Danny Gabbidon and Anton Ferdinand have both proved themselves in recent months, while veteran Wigan pairing Arjan de Zeeuw and Stephane Henchoz have impressed for Paul Jewell's side.

INJURIES

To his credit, McCarthy did not moan about his side's injury problems which affected key positions.

They missed Elliott's guile up front for long periods and Kevin Kyle's physical presence would also have given them more options going forward.

Full-backs George McCartney and Stephen Wright have also spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch this season.

But if truth be told it is unlikely any of these players could have made much of a difference even if fit.

CONCLUSION

Given their dreadful record of only two league wins all season, the only real surprise about McCarthy's sacking is its timing.

With 10 games to go, relegation is already a foregone conclusion.

It has been clear for some time the Sunderland squad was not up to scratch - but looking ahead to next season, McCarthy appeared the right man to lead another promotion challenge.

Instead, Murray has decided to make a clean break.

Some fans already blame him more than McCarthy for the club's current plight, and that discontent will only grow if his next appointment is not a successful one.




SEE ALSO
Sunderland sack manager McCarthy
06 Mar 06 |  Sunderland
Lawrence criticises McCarthy exit
06 Mar 06 |  Sunderland
Steve Cram on McCarthy sacking
06 Mar 06 |  Sunderland


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